Monday, March 15, 2010

A Publisher's Perspective on Platforms

a Q & A with Managing Editor Martha Cook, Pt. I

I'd like to say a special word of thanks to Martha Cook for her frank and enlightening discussion on what helps authors distinguish themselves and what recommends a new author’s project to a publisher.

Martha Cook is the managing editor of Trafalgar Square Books and Horse and Rider Books. She is the liaison between the publishing company and the authors the company publishes. She works directly with authors on each book project from development through production and distribution.

Ms. Cook often works with unrepresented first-time authors who are experts in their field. She also evaluates the project proposals that Trafalgar Square Books receives. She generously gave of her time to answer some questions that new non-fiction writers have and to share an editor’s perspective on how a writer can attract a publisher’s attention.

Her comments regarding an author's platform are essential for all aspiring non-fiction writers to comprehend.

Q: I keep hearing about a “platform.” How important is having one? What do you look for in a platform when considering an author’s book proposal?

A: A platform – a significant, credible, sphere of influence – significantly improves an author’s chances of getting our attention! If we have a choice between two projects similar in subject and the writers have equal qualifications, we are always going to go with the author who has worked to gain recognition among people who are the audience for his or her book.

Authors who present at expositions, write articles for magazines, participate in online forums or have joined associations or groups that build their reputations make the publisher’s job of promoting and selling a book much easier and generally more profitable.

Q: I don't have a platform. I'm not a celebrity--but I can write. Is there any hope for me to get my books published?

A: I can only answer this question from the perspective of a non-fiction publisher of specialty instructional books. There is hope for you to get published if you write really well and IF you are very well versed in the subject about which you wish to write.

As specialty horse book publishers, we will only consider an author who obviously knows his or her subject very thoroughly. Furthermore, in this day and age, the writer needs to be willing to work to create a platform to help promote and market both the book and him- or herself.

While we may contract a well-known horse training star who cannot write (we will find a proven author to ghost the writing), in order to get our attention, an unknown or lesser-known author must be a good writer who shows an excellent command of the subject matter and who is willing to put effort into self-promotion both during and after the writing of the book.

Tune in tomorrow for Ms. Cook's comments on Pitching and Proposals...

1 comment:

Ann Charles said...

Ami and Ms. Cook,

Thank you for this explanation of platform. I am an unpublished genre fiction writer who is studying non-fiction platforms in order to build a platform and make myself more appealing to publishers. I am also in the planning stages of a non-fiction book, so this is right up my alley.

Ann Charles